Sure, owning the Wall Street Journal (and not destroying it) is nice. Owning a thriving New York Times would be nicer still. But leading the journalistic establishment's last-gasp charge, Light Brigade–style, against the standards-reducing, business-destroying entropy of the Web? If anything could make Murdoch a member in good standing of the journalistic pantheon — as worthy of veneration as Lippmann and Ochs and Graham and the rest — this would be it. Even if he fails, he wins.
If you're a new manager in any field — particularly one whose arrival was preceded by some sort of turmoil — it's not a bad idea to make your arrival as soothing as possible. Praise your predecessor, say nice things about your new colleagues, candidly acknowledge how much you have to learn.
In other words, it's smart to respond the way Andrew Putz, the new editor at Boston magazine, did when I recently asked him his plans for that publication. Putz — who previously was a senior editor for Philadelphia magazine, Boston's corporate sibling, and arrives in Boston following a stint as editor of Minnesota Monthly — began by calling his editorial predecessor, James Burnett, a "really good journalist." (Burnett was canned on June 22, along with several lower-ranking employees.) He praised his staff's talent and knowledge, and compared senior editor Paul Kix to Skip Hollandsworth, the bigfoot writer for Texas Monthly. And he acknowledged that his own grasp of Boston is very much a work in progress.
Caginess notwithstanding, though, Putz also offers some clues about what he'll try to change at BoMag — and why Herb and David Lipson, the father-son duo that runs Metrocorp, Boston's Philadelphia-based parent company, installed him in the post.
"I want the magazine to be a user's manual for people who live here," says Putz. "And with good city magazines, it's not necessarily about geography or zip code or area code — it's about the idea of what the city is.
"If you wanted to draw up a perfect scenario," he adds, "I don't think you could do much better than Boston. You've got a lot of smart people. You've got a lot of people who care about what's going on. And you've got a very distinct sense of, and emotional tie to, what Boston means."
Sounds reasonable enough. But if plumbing Boston's sense of itself is the goal, how successful can Boston really hope to be when it's edited by a Minnesotan (like me, Putz grew up in the North Star state), has an editorial director who lives in Greater Philadelphia (Larry Platt), and is owned by a guy (Herb Lipson) who calls New Jersey home?
Plenty, Putz insists. "There is value in coming to a place with a new set of eyes," he says. "As a writer, I knew I often did some of my best pieces when I was new to a place — because it was all new to me, and you were excited about discovering these things. And if the expectation of the people around you and the people that read you is that you know what the hell you're talking about, it makes you motivated to absorb as much information as you can."